How the bridge broke

The Broken Bridge has indeed become a Chennai landmark despite the Olcott Kuppam being a deterrant to many reaching it. What many may not know is that it’s been there for a very long time, built originally in the seventies for the fisher folk to be able to move easily across the river along the coast. I don’t recall the exact year it broke, but I do know it was when I was in high school, and that my friend and I were probably the first ones to see it that way! Here’s how it happened….

It was the monsoon, and as was usual in those days, there were a series of depressions in the bay, followed by torrential rains for a few days after which there was respite before the next one. One of those depressions, however, developed into a cyclone, and headed for Madras. There were high winds, high seas, storm warnings and heavy rains. All very appealing to teenagers like me at that time, so my friend and I, in search of adventure and an experience, met up and cycled out into the storm!

It was both exhilarating and frightening. Exhilarating because of the elements in our faces- the wind and the rain, almost blowing us over now and then. Frightening because of trees occasionally crashing down, once further up the road in front of us. Undeterred, we cycled on, along empty roads to Besant Nagar Beach, then past the Olcott Kuppam to the bridge. We cycled right up to the bridge, left the cycles and tentatively walked out over the raging waters for a most incredible sight.

After a few days of the cyclone, the Adyar was in spate, with flood waters rushing towards the sea. About the time we reached the bridge, the tide was already moving in, much higher than usual because of the storm surge. So here were the river waters in flood flowing forcefully to the river’s mouth, and the sea waters surging inwards with the tide and meeting near the bridge! The resulting maelstrom in the water had eroded the foundations of the supports of some of the spans towards the middle, collapsing them, so that the spans angled down into the raging waters below.

We walked out on the bridge to witness one of the most awesome demonstrations of nature’s power that I have ever seen. As the two forces of water met, often there would be loud explosions of sound as waves collided, with great spouts of water going straight up in the air! Only to be blown away as stinging spray by the wind. There was no pattern to the way the water was behaving as it sought to find a way in opposing directions with enormous force. Anyone caught in such waters wouldn’t have had a hope of surviving.

Humbled and thoroughly frightened, we crept out along the bridge to where the span had collapsed, huddled together, watching the raging waters. Then it occurred to us that the violence of the waters could bring down additional spans, taking us swiftly into the nightmarish waters below! So we quickly scuttled back, marveling at what we had seen. Back on land, I have never been so grateful to be able to stand on firm ground! But undaunted, we cycled on, first to Foreshore Estate where the sea had breached the beach and shore road, and flooded the ground floor apartments. Then on to the Marina, where the waves had advanced across the beach up to the gardens below the road.

So that’s how the bridge broke, and that’s the way its remained ever since. I don’t know if the spans angling into the water are still there, as I have never been back there for a second look!

8 Comments so far

  1. Navneeth (unregistered) on April 15th, 2007 @ 10:40 pm

    Wow, that must’ve been some adventure!

  2. G V Balasubramanian (unregistered) on April 16th, 2007 @ 12:15 am

    Though I have lived in Santhome for about 8 years, i have not visited the broken bridge. I remember MGR’s Kadaloram Vaangiya Kaathu song in Rickshawkaran which I believe is shot in this bridge before it got broken

  3. Navneeth (unregistered) on April 16th, 2007 @ 12:21 am

    David could probably sing, remembering old times: “Kadaloram vaangiya suravali kaatru”! ;-)

  4. Anonymous Coward (unregistered) on April 16th, 2007 @ 12:14 pm

    Nice post. David

  5. Lavanya (unregistered) on April 16th, 2007 @ 3:46 pm

    David, very interesting!

  6. Ari (unregistered) on April 18th, 2007 @ 6:35 pm

    Historical data, a definite thumbs Up, David. If am right my first visit to “Broken Bridge” was in 1996. More than a decade ago and few things have changed. The debris remains, the old man on a kattamaran and those Red-Claw Crabs, fail to remember their name.

    What’s truly changed? The bunds at the delta has invariably disappeared due to “sand theft”. One of the larger piece of debris was removed/ shifted. The landscape looks different with the multi-storey residential apartment (hate that one). Althought most of us can still view the CV Building from an angle.

    The place gained its tourist importance after couple of movies. Not too many people realize Chennai Rugby team used to practice beside the broken bridge. You also get “Dabba Kanji”, local toddy beside the broken arena. Its an amazing spot to view sunset on a high tide day.

    Glimpse of Adyar River from the Broken Bridge:

  7. Cheeta (unregistered) on April 19th, 2007 @ 11:08 pm

    Hi Daddy! I finally read it…awesome! Wish I had done stuff like that as a kid. Sigh. Well I guess I still have time :) Shortage of storms though! Let’s go to Broken Bridge and have a look :)

  8. K M Ashraf (unregistered) on April 29th, 2007 @ 9:35 am

    Well that does bring up memories! I have lived all me life in Adyar. From 1959! The broken bridge was a spot where me and muh pal Ram Mohan tried our hand at fishing during me school days, should be around ’72/’73. But we novices could only watch in awe as the local ‘anglers’ pulled in fish after fish with none going for our bait. At the end of the fishing ‘expedition’ we returned empty handed but after an exhilarating day at a spot visited only the local habitue.
    I think the Govt. of Tamil Nadu should seriously put up a road bridge in the same spot to facilitate a more direct route to Besant Nagar and beyond and reduce the burden on the narrow stretch of road at Andhra Mahila Sabha / Sathya Studio.

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